Microsoft Researchers Help Guide Internet’s Future

REDMOND, Wash., Oct. 12, 1999 — A glimpse into the future of the Internet is available now on Microsoft’s corporate campus — and coming soon to a university near you.

Scientists at Microsoft Research (MSR) recently connected to Abilene, the networking backbone that supports Internet2, a joint university-industry project that is implementing new ways to speed the Internet and accelerating the availability of new Internet-based services and applications.

At the Internet2 Member Meeting in Seattle this week, more than 500 participants will see demonstrations of nearly a dozen advanced Internet applications over nationwide high-performance networks, including: the Megaconference, an ongoing experiment to connect more than 60 universities and organizations around the world using high-quality, interactive videoconferencing; music lessons conducted over the network with better-than-TV quality video; an HDTV broadcast over Internet2 networks by the ResearchTV consortium, led by the University of Washington; High Performance Computing in the Arts (HiPArt), demonstrated by Boston University; and remote broadcasts from geological sites by the Seattle Community College District.

As one of 18 Internet2 corporate partners, Microsoft will be a major participant in the conference and will make contributions of more than $1 million in goods and services to universities involved in the Internet2 project.

Initially, Internet2 ( ) will be the exclusive domain of research universities. But technologies and services being perfected by researchers eventually will migrate to the Internet and other networks, making capabilities such as digital video, secure e-commerce, and speedy connections–as much as 45,000 times faster than conventional dial-up methods–available to everyone.

Already, astronomers on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean are using Internet2 to simulate the collision of neutron stars. Biologists hundreds of miles apart are using it to manipulate a remote-controlled microscope and analyze the inner workings of proteins. And doctors separated by a mountain range are depending on the Internet2 network to receive and move three-dimensional images in a virtual clinic.

Internet2 is a collaborative effort of 160 universities and leading high-tech businesses. Microsoft joined the 3-year-old endeavor as a corporate partner in April. Representatives from MSR and various Microsoft product groups, including Windows 2000, Windows Media, and NetMeeting, are involved with the project.

“We’re working with key Internet2 researchers to make sure that what they’re doing is in sync with what development teams for Windows 2000 and beyond are working on,”
said MSR’s Todd Needham, a liaison to the Internet2 project.
“Almost all of the project’s working groups touch on core services of our operating systems.”

The nine working groups to which Needham refers address various technical issues that are enabling the development of advanced applications. Microsoft has contributed technical input to three of these groups–Routing, Quality of Service, and IPv6.

Routing: This working group is concentrating on the routing of direct physical paths, which carry data over high-performance networks. Efficient routing ensures that information such as High-Definition Television (HDTV) content streams over a network with minimal delays.

Quality of Service (QOS): This working group is developing a method to guarantee throughput for particular data streams that currently run on congested networks.
“For example, we may want to ensure that audio has a guaranteed throughput of 64 Kbps and HDTV-quality video has a guaranteed throughput of 20 Mbps,”
Needham said.
“QOS has the potential of enabling us to control the different types of streams and enable you to pay for and guarantee the bandwidth that you need.”

IPv6: A networking transport previously known as IPTNG (Internet Protocol The Next Generation), IPv6 is the next generation of the Transport Control Protocol/Interface Program (TCP/IP).

“The big thing it does is open up the number of available IP addresses,”
Needham said.
“IPv6 pretty much guarantees that we’ll never run out of address space. Every device on the planet can have an IP address under IPv6.”

Microsoft representatives also are working with the Internet2 organization to develop two new working groups: Collaborative Technologies and Public Key Infrastructure.

Collaborative Technologies: “Although better databases or faster video are important areas that Internet2 working groups can significantly influence, we all believe that the killer applications that will be built for this new network will be collaborative technologies that help people work together in a seamless manner,”
Needham said. He added that products such as NetMeeting, which today offers collaborative audio, video, and application sharing primarily optimized for low-bandwidth networks,
“will now have tremendous opportunities to offer expanded functionality, with super-high bandwidth, guaranteed throughput and very low latencies.”

Public Key Infrastructure: This working group will set up trust relationships among Internet2 participating universities by developing standards for network security and authentication using digital certificates. This will enable seamless distance-learning initiatives or other educational exchanges between universities and their students.

“The Internet as we know it today is constantly pushed to its limits,”
said MSR Vice President Rick Rashid.
“Even though now we can participate in videoconferences or exchange audio and video clips with one another, the quality of the experience is not optimal or compelling enough to make it commonplace. By working with the Internet2 consortium, Microsoft is confident that together we can overcome the current technical challenges by developing the new network technologies that will eventually revolutionize the Internet experience.”

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